A coroner has praised the courage of the US special forces who mounted a botched mission to rescue kidnapped aid worker Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan.
Ms Norgrove, 36, was killed by a grenade thrown by a US soldier during the operation, but Wiltshire coroner David Ridley did not blame him or his comrades for the tragic mistake.
Giving a narrative verdict at her inquest, he said the serviceman “genuinely feared for the safety of the lives of his colleagues and also himself and had to make a critical decision in a fraction of a second”.
And he hailed the “bravery and courage shown by the US special forces in even attempting that rescue”.
Ms Norgrove, from the Western Isles, was helping the Afghan people rebuild their war-torn country when she was seized during an ambush in the Dewagal valley in Kunar province on September 26.
The inquest heard that visibility was so poor the US troops who tried to rescue her had been unaware of her presence as they fired at insurgents and the fatal grenade was thrown. It also heard details of how close the special forces came to achieving their goal.
Giving evidence at Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner’s Court, British Brigadier Robert Nitsch, who helped investigate the incident, said a US soldier had thrown the grenade as he feared his comrades were in danger and had been “thinking at a million miles a minute at this time”.
In the aftermath of the disaster, false information was given that she had been killed by an Afghan insurgent, with the truth not emerging for almost two days. This was partly because the team leader of the operation believed her captor had blown himself up, the inquest heard.
The inquest was attended by her parents, John and Lorna, who live on Lewis in the Western Isles, younger sister, Sofie Corns, 34, and eight-month-old nephew, Tom.
In a statement released after the verdict, the family said: “She was a lovely girl, had so much to offer and was such a force for good in the world. We miss her terribly. The whole affair is a tragedy.”